The Ghost of the Seven Gables

A remarkable photograph captures the Hawthorne ghost

Hawthorne's ghost.
The ghost of a little boy can be seen in the shrubbery. ~ Lisa (used with permission)

Lisa, one of our regular readers, was touring the historic House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts when she snapped a remarkable ghost photograph. The photo clearly shows the image of an apparition, which we have good reason to believe may be the ghost of Nathaniel Hawthorne or his son, Julian.

A 35-year-old resident of Long Island, New York, Lisa says she has been experiencing paranormal happenings on many levels for as long as she can remember.

"It seems the older I get, the more frequent and in-depth these happenings have become," she says. And now she has photographic evidence to back them up.

The photograph was taken in September, 2004 when Lisa had taken a trip to Salem. "On this particular trip," she says, "I decided to take a guided tour of The House of the Seven Gables property, also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion located at 54 Turner Street. On that property now sits the birth home of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, which was actually moved from Union Street onto Turner Street."

Hawthorne's Dark Past

Nathanial Hawthorne (1804-1864) is considered one of the most important and influential American authors of novels and short stories. His richly allegorical tales employed a kind of pre-Freudian psychological exploration of his characters, which makes his work as relevant today as ever.

His best-known work, The Scarlet Letter, is still required reading in many American literature curricula.

Other works include the dark short story "Young Goodman Brown" (in which a young man meets the devil in a forest) and The House of the Seven Gables, based on the property shown in this photograph and the legend of a curse that was placed on Hawthorne's family by a woman sentenced to death during the infamous Salem witch trials.

Hawthorne's family was of Puritan stock, one of this ancestors being Judge Hathorne, who presided over some of the witchcraft trials in 1692. Nathaniel was actually so ashamed of this bit of family history that he added a "w" to the family name to make it Hawthorne, yet he felt it left an indelible stain on his imagination.

If that's not pretext for a good ghost story, nothing is.

Next page > The Photo and an Incredible Discovery

"As the tour went underway," Lisa says, "I began sensing a presence... and not of the other patrons on the tour. This was different. I was being overwhelmed by an urge to look around, as if expecting to see someone, to make real the images in my mind from the invisible presence that was lurking about. But I saw nothing."

Yet the powerful feeling kept Lisa from paying much attention to the tour lecture.

She slipped away from the group and went outside to the back area to walk around.

"I began a silent conversation in my mind with this presence," Lisa says. "I do this because I know they are there and I want them to know that I know they exist on another level of frequency. I do believe in some way this makes them more comfortable in the attempt to communicate with us. I proceeded to ask this presence for permission to take a few photographs."

The Spirit Obliges

Lisa took five panoramic photos with a conventional film camera. She rushed to develop the film, certain that she had captured something extraordinary. To her disappointment, however, she saw nothing. But some time after she returned home from her trip, she began to experience a strong compulsion to reexamine the photos, as if something or someone was telling her to do so.

"So I did. And there he was, right below the sign that marks Nathanial Hawthorne's birthplace.

In one of the photos was an image that appeared to be a little boy. I needed to find out:

  • Who was this little boy and why did he come to me?
  • Why did he appear in the photo? Because he wanted to be seen? But why?
  • What keeps his spirit trapped at this young age at the House of the Seven Gables?"

In her search for answers, Lisa made some astonishing discoveries.

Lisa went to her local library to research Hawthorne.


"The first book I pulled off the shelf was Twenty Days with Julian & Little Bunny by Papa, a book Nathaniel wrote about the twenty days he spent alone with his five-year-old son and his pet rabbit when they were moving out of Salem to New Hampshire. When I first glanced at the cover, chills went down my spine. It was as if I was looking right through his eyes into his soul, the sadness in this child. He also appears to carry the look of an old soul."

The resemblance between the portrait of Julian on the cover of the book and the ghost child in Lisa's photograph (see comparison) is astonishing and unmistakable. So Lisa at first thought the ghost to be that of Julian. But Julian Hawthorne did not die at a young age; he grew up to be an author in his own right and lived well into his eighties.

"I am beginning to believe this might be Nathaniel Hawthorne himself at this young age of four years old," Lisa theorizes. But how could this be since, obviously, Nathaniel lived to be an adult? Why would his ghost appear as a young child?

Next page > Lisa Finds Some Answers

Why would his ghost appear as a young child?

"I believe this is because Nathaniel's father died at sea when Nathaniel was just four years old," Lisa says. "He was given this tragic news by his grandmother in a very matter-of-fact manner (as the story is told). This incident apparently traumatized a very young Nathaniel. And this was when his mother moved him and his siblings from his birth house on Union Street across the Hawthorne lot to Herbert Street to her parent's home, were she claimed they could live more comfortably.

"Maybe Nathaniel's young spirit stays at the birth house waiting for his father's return from sea."

Another reason may be that Nathaniel always remained childlike, even as an adult. In the book Twenty Days with Julian & Little Bunny by Papa, it states how Nathaniel loved to play with his children, not like a father, but more like a child himself. Playing hide and seek was a favorite game, and he would hide in the tree in the yard.

Still Searching

This particular game, Lisa suggests, may have pampered his inner belief that his father could just be hiding rather than dead. Is the spirit of that child still searching, trying to find where daddy could be hiding?

"I believe the child part of Nathaniel's mind stood still the moment he was given that traumatic news - and stayed still, causing Nathaniel to express childlike behavior until his death. When he passed over to the other side, he left behind that four-year-old spirit part of himself to forever search for daddy.

"The problem I have in proving the image in my photograph is of Nathaniel," Lisa admits, "is that I can find no portraits of Nathaniel as a child." We have only the portrait of his son Julian at around the same age, but it is reasonable to assume there would be a resemblance.

Extraordinary Sychronicity

As a postscript to this remarkable story, Lisa adds two bits of synchronicity that occurred as she was researching Hawthorne:

"When I was discussing my theory with my husband and my skeptical father, something strange happened," says Lisa. "The Green Bay/Carolina Football game was on. Just as I said I believe this is Nathaniel Hawthorne in my photo, a Green Bay football player walked off the field displaying the back of his Jersey with the name none other than Hawthorne!

"The next day, my husband came in my room with an envelope asking if I ordered something from a 'Hawthorne Village.' I quickly said, 'No! Why?' He handed me an envelope from a Hawthorne Village in Niles, Illinois (no relation to Nathaniel Hawthorne). It was a Christmas advertisement. What are the chances?"

What are the chances indeed. It's a strange coincidence surrounding what we believe to be a great ghost photograph.